Group is seeking parties’ funding disclosure so as to safeguard SA democracy
A CIVIL society organisation will return to court next week to challenge the Promotion of Access to Information Act’s (PAIA) limits regarding access to information of political parties’ private funding.
My Vote Counts (MVC) will be at the Western Cape High Court to challenge the constitutionality of the PAIA. The application will be heard on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The DA, the only party opposing this application, has filed an opposing affidavit.
MVC will also be making a verbal submission to the ad hoc committee on the Funding of Political Parties in Parliament on Wednesday and Thursday. The minister of justice and correctional services is another respondent to the application.
“( We believe) that every vote should count equally. A citizen’s vote must count more than the rands and cents that political parties collect in order to campaign for public office,” said MVC co-ordinator, Janine Ogle.
“When the donations made by individuals, companies, or foreign governments become more important than the common voter – when the voice of money is heard louder than yours or mine – then democracy is in danger.”
Ogle said her organisation would fight to keep the country’s democracy from being reduced to an economic principle “of one rand, one vote”.
“Our democracy will not be put up for sale to the highest bidder.”
The organisation is resolute in its belief that every cent received by political parties must be accounted for to the public, which can “only properly hold our elected representatives accountable if we know where their financial interests lie”.
MVC launched the application to declare the PAIA invalid and unconstitutional last year in July.
The organisation argues that the Act fails “to make provision for the continuous and systematic recordal and disclosure of information regarding the private funding of political parties and independent ward candidates”.
The application follows a 2015 Constitutional Court application by the organisation against the Speaker of Parliament, where the bench held that the MVC should have challenged the constitutionality of the Act for failing to allow access to information on private funding, in the Western Cape High Court.
In court papers, the DA has asked the court to dismiss the current application with costs.
The party’s arguments include:
The DA states that the Independent Electoral Com- mission (IEC) ought to have been joined to these proceedings by MVC;
The DA puts forward further arguments, one dealing more with an issue in principle and the other which aims at establishing that the limitation of the public’s right to know is justified;
The DA also argues the MVC has failed to show that disclosure is required for the effective exercise of the right to vote and/or that secrecy of funding creates space for, or facilitates, potential collusion and corruption;
Their argument on the practicality of what MVC is asking of the court is that “a compulsory disclosure regime will have a disproportionately burdensome effect on smaller and minority parties” (para 18) and that: many donors believe that disclosure could “… harm their business interests if it was found that they supported an opposition party like the DA”; “donors will not give money to parties like the DA, based on the fear that this will mean that they will be unable to do business with the national government, as well as the provincial administrations and municipalities which are not controlled by other parties”.
They also argue that a disclosure regime would require monitoring and oversight by a body “with intrusive powers” and that “this would further intrude on the privacy of political parties, and their donors and employees”.
As such, the party argues that any limitation of the right of access to information which prevents the disclosure of private funding information is justified.